U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calling on State Department to Increase Protections for Citizens Abroad

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the State Department to take a more proactive approach in protecting and assisting distressed citizens when abroad.

At Senator Baldwin’s request, the State Department created a process to collect and analyze the stories of approximately 140 U.S. citizens involved in illicit alcohol-related incidents in Mexico. Senator Baldwin is urging the Department to use the information contained in these stories to appropriately reform consular affairs operations in Mexico and reevaluate relationships with Mexican partner organizations that do not share American interests.

The Senator is also urging the State Department to assist U.S. citizen victims gather evidence and navigate an ineffective foreign legal system, not merely provide limited guidance and essentially let Americans fend for themselves. In addition, Senator Baldwin is requesting that all reports received by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City are shared with the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which is conducting an inquiry into the State Department’s response to incidents involving potentially tainted alcohol.

Senator Baldwin wrote, “While I understand that the State Department does not have legal jurisdiction to investigate specific cases, I am confident that a clear-eyed, comprehensive analysis of the information provided by victims will reveal systemic issues related to illicit alcohol, weak and corrupt law enforcement and judicial institutions, an absence of the rule of law, and an overall dangerous environment for U.S. citizens in Mexico. Accordingly, I request that you use this information and associated analysis to reform, as appropriate, U.S. consular affairs operations in Mexico, including the scope and posture of assistance provided to American citizens in distress.”

In October 2017, Senator Baldwin called attention to the State Department’s inadequacies regarding ensuring the health and safety of U.S. citizens following the death of 20-year-old Abbey Conner from Pewaukee who drowned in a suspicious alcohol-related incident in Mexico. In that letter, Senator Baldwin requested that the State Department demand Mexican officials more frequently and thoroughly investigate suspected tainted alcohol, including the manufacturers, distributors, and purchasers, and improve its efforts to prevent, investigate, and transparently prosecute crimes related to illicit alcohol.